Mi Madre: Una Mujer Valiente

Mi Madre: Una Mujer Valiente

Mi Madre representa Seguridad, Amor y Fuerza. 

Su Amor tiene textura como un bordado familiar.

Es tan Bella, como las Flores de su jardín. 

Mi Madre es una mujer VALIENTE, porque llego a los Estados Unidos para realizar una nueva oportunidad. Apesar de la dificultad de ser lejos de su país, familia y cultura. 

Mi Madre mantuvo su dulzura como una cocada pegada al paladar. Siempre me hace sonreír y me devuelve a mi infancia.

Mi Madre es una mujer que admiro, que aprecio, y es la relación mas compleja y estresante; aun todavía, lo mas precioso que tengo en La Vida. 


Mi Madre represents security, love and strength.

Her love has texture like my family’s embroidered blankets.

She is beautiful like her flowers blooming in the garden.

Mi Madre is a strong woman for leaving her county, culture, and family for new opportunities in the United States.

Mi Madre’s remained sweet like a Coconut Macaroon, which brings a smile to my face and sticks to the roof of my mouth. And takes me back to my childhood.

Mi Madre, is a woman I admire; am inspired by - and ours is the most complex and stressful, and yet most precious relationship that I will ever have with another human being.


Maria Elena Marquez, MA, is a bilingual Spanish-English Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #103470, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. As an art therapist, Maria is passionate about helping clients unravel complex cultural beliefs and family pressures through the use of expressive arts.

My Grandmother: An Inspired Role Model

My Grandmother: An Inspired Role Model

In remembrance of my Grandmother who died earlier this year, I wanted to reflect during this Women's History Month on just how much impact a seemingly ordinary woman can have. 

cristian-newman-63291-unsplash.jpg

She could be easy to overlook given her humble lifestyle, and although she never earned fame or notoriety, she was certainly well-known and deeply respected within her communities.  She had an impressive capacity for care, kindness, compassion, and endurance.  She was one of 12 siblings, 8 of whom fought in WWII, and she grew up in rural Pennsylvania fighting her own way out of a sometimes stifling small town. She imagined more for herself - a life with a far greater reach.  

She had many wonderful years as a student and a missionary, starting her own family on international missions. She had an amazing faith and ability to go with the swing of things. I think she was truly shocked and devastated when she found herself abandoned as a single mother of 6 children, at a time when her youngest was just barely starting school and they had all moved to a new city. Despite the many challenges that came with raising children alone, she managed to find a way to put herself through nursing school while working three jobs, and somehow maintained closeness and connection to her kids. 

It has always struck me that despite how hard she worked, she always seemed so emotionally available and generous with her time. She prioritized her family, and showed up in times of need.  I'm sure I also learned some questionable things from her including how to evade student loan debt (it doesn't really work), but it never seemed to keep her down and she was able to keep her relational priorities straight. I think she was truly happier for that, and for the risks she took. 

This is not an uncommon story, many women and mothers rise to their maternal duties. She lived her life as a member of the working poor and ultimately devoted herself to work with the church of the Salvation Army. This is not exactly a 'pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps' success story, but celebration for her comes from the fact that she carried on working diligently while never surrendering her values or losing her sense of humor, humility, or self. She managed to continually lift-up others and was an inspiration for the many women in our family to own their sense of independence, hold on to their opinions, and speak-up against those trying to keep them down. 

My Grandma certainly faced hardships that I will never know, and I can only hope that some fraction of her enormous strength has been passed down to me.  To some she may seem like just another lady who slipped through life unnoticed, but to me and to my family we know just how many lives she touched. She was an inspired role model of determination, sturdiness, and above all - love.  


Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.

Failure: An Expected Guest

Failure: An Expected Guest

...losing taught me freedom.

When I was in college, I was a sprinter (for you track fans out there, the 400m dash was my main event). Many, many training sessions, pairs of shoes, taped feet, and ice baths later, one of the most valuable things I gained was getting used to failure.

I’m actually pretty competitive, so don’t be misled into thinking I don’t care about winning. (Ha!) But while the drive to win taught me discipline, confidence, and focus, losing taught me freedom.

Regular public failure required me to develop a sense of security beyond success, and once I had it, I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.

In my post college years, I have looked back on my experience with failure in athletics as a season of “training wheels.” The risks and failures I ventured into in that season had few real world consequences.

...I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.

These days, I find that my failures often carry a much bigger ripple effect, affecting the lives of those I care about. It’s challenged me to again develop a sense of security beyond perfection. Really, no system that depends on me to be perfect is very secure, though I think it can have that illusion. “If I could just perform perfectly, things will be alright in my own life and the lives of those I care for.”

But really, things became much more secure when I got honest with myself and others about the reality of failure as part of my existence and my best efforts to help. That honesty allowed me to think of responding to my own failures as part of “normal life.” Not something to be rigidly prevented or defended against, but allowed in as an expected guest.


Allison (Allie) Ramsey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Therapist. Allie works with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging. 

Failure is a Guidepost

Failure is a Guidepost

When faced with failure, I try to remember that growth is not linear, and success is not always so clearly measured.

I’ve experienced a sense of failure when the difference between where I am and where I would like to be feels much greater than I had hoped. The journey suddenly feels longer, and I become exhausted, ashamed, upset with myself, and I start to contemplate giving up or changing course. These feelings don’t help me reach my goals or accept myself for who I am when it gets to the point that I avoid the challenges or begin to let my inner sense of failure infiltrate the rest of my psychic being.  

When faced with failure, I try to remember that growth is not linear, and success is not always so clearly measured. I try to practice self-compassion without letting myself off the hook or continuing to avoid the painful feelings I must wrestle with to keep moving toward my goals. Maybe this time they are more realistic or appropriate and are not as concerned about what others think. Maybe more self-compassion and kindness will make me more open to feedback and help along the way.  

In the past, accepting failure and telling myself that I am just not “good enough” or “smart enough” has been a slippery slope when it comes to having the confidence to move forward in areas where I am indeed better suited. I still feed this struggle sometimes, feeling like I have failed if I am still suffering from some of my same old defenses that no longer serve me. Rather than feeling consumed by guilt, shame, and inadequacy when I recognize my growing edges, I must have more compassion for my own healing journey and know that I am committed to the process with all its inevitable failures and follies. Failure is never easy, and some failures hurt more than others, but failure can also serve as guideposts to where real growth can begin as long as we keep our heads up high enough not to miss the trails. 


Erika Mitchell, MA, is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #109385, working under the professional supervision of Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT 50732. Erika specializes in helping her clients bring mindful, attuned awareness to their sensations and emotions.

On Failing and Making Awesome Happen: An Interview with Jessica Rosen, Owner of One Down Dog

On Failing and Making Awesome Happen: An Interview with Jessica Rosen, Owner of One Down Dog

Lauren Ziel: Thank you, first and foremost, for agreeing to chit-chat. I think Michelle and I had you in mind because it’s the new year — beginning of 2019 — and really thick with rebirth, change, growth and resolutions. Even though that’s exciting; such a positive spin - I think sometimes we can overlook the hard, non-linear path towards success and how usually that road is paved in failure. With Michelle and I both knowing you and your success in growing your business One Down Dog - from an outsider perspective, you’re f*&#in rocking it. And yet, we also know that you have worked your ass off and there’s been struggle and failure in the process— and you’ve been so open and honest with that. So, we thought you’d be a really good person to comment on what it means to fail and why that can be a great and integral thing in the process of becoming successful. So, again, thank you. 

Jessica Rosen: Thank you!

LZ: So, we wanted to know in the context of your business [running multiple yoga studios] and in how you’ve grown over the years, what would you say is your greatest failure?

I’m trying to really show up for myself.

JR: Oh man, there are so many little ones. It’s hard to think of the biggest one. Okay…so, I think my biggest failure…maybe failure isn’t the right word…but we’ll go this one: it has been in my own ability to get shit done. Which, I know like you said, from the outside everything looks amazing, but I have a tendency to put things off, to get really overwhelmed and bogged down by the details and by the minutiae, by my email inbox, and in little things that take away from my bigger picture. I have this tendency to spin in circles and then at the end of every single day say, “I didn’t get anything done today.” 

What I’ve realized in the last few month is…I set myself up for failure in that way. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I say “I can’t get anything done.” And, therefore, I don’t get anything done. So, I’m trying to really show up for myself. I don’t really know if failure is the right word for all of this. But it feels like a failure when I go home and feel that sense of self-defeat. I’m shifting that, and I’m working hard on chunking things and giving myself projects. Because that feels more successful when I take things in chunks instead of trying to do everything all at one time. 

LZ: Yeah, we might want to play with that — can we reframe failure with a different word? But what I’m hearing in your process is that you’re coming home at the end of the day with a certain sense. And because of that sense and wanting to change, then you’re pivoting and finding a different way to attack something. It’s almost like you have to learn from the failure…you have to get to the point of feeling this certain way in order for that to be the impetus for you to innovate, pivot, change direction, scrap, go, etc. I think that is maybe what we’re getting at — the failures are these small or big chances…opportunities…to really hone in on what’s important and what will lead to either a growth or a success or something of that nature. How do you think failure has been a part of One Down Dog’s success?

JR: It’s a big part. It’s a constant learning of “Okay, I tried that. Okay, that didn’t work. Let’s try this..” In figuring out our hiring process. In our on-boarding process. In negotiating lease agreements. With our schedule. Trying a class and then it not doing well. And then having to figure out the right time for it or the right teacher with the right class type. It’s a constant evolution. Without those moments of things not working or “failing,” there’s no way we could have gotten to where we’re at today. I started in a temporary shared space and somehow now there’s three locations with two yoga rooms in each of them. That whole process was a series of throwing a ton of spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. 

LZ: You’re doing the Make Awesome Happen workshop. Is failure woven into that? 

JR: Yes, absolutely. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed in my own life and I’ve seen it in others’ lives that stops us from making awesome happen, whether that’s making our biggest, wildest dreams come true or with the smaller stuff like personal interactions in our head….a big piece is our own negative self-talk, self-doubt, and our fear of failing. The fear of doing it wrong. The fear of it not working. And then like I mentioned before…this self-fulfilling prophecy where I’ll think that something isn’t gonna work or that I’m not getting shit done…whatever the case….and then it will be. Because I set myself up for it. That’s a big part of what I talk about in the workshop. How do we overcome those fears of failure? How can we reframe what failure is in our lives? Because ultimately, as corny as it is, failures are lessons and opportunities for growth. Every time something doesn’t work, it’s guiding us in the direction of what’s going to…if there’s a willingness to look at it and allow space for it. It can very easily turn into “Well, that didn’t work and that proves my point. Therefore, it’s never gonna happen.” Or it can be, “Well, that didn’t work but I learned something so wonderful from that experience and now there’s potential for something else” - which is amazing.

Without those moments of things not working or “failing,” there’s no way we could have gotten to where we’re at today.

LZ: Yeah. So, rather than foreclosing and shutting down. It’s the door closing and the window opening metaphor. 

JR: Yes, exactly.

 LZ: You’re the OG bosslady. One person can facilitate a culture in an organization of celebrating failure or in the very least saying that it’s okay. How do you think you have fostered that at One Down Dog?

JR: My initial response is that I could a lot better in fostering that. As I mentioned earlier, I have a tendency to be really hard on myself, and I’m certain that bleeds into the rest of my company to a certain extent. There’s a level of ask for forgiveness, not permission. And an understanding that just because something didn’t work the way we expected that doesn’t mean we throw it out. We’ve had events where we thought “Oh, this is going to be amazing and we’re going to have so many people show up” and then there will be two people who attend. I don’t want to just throw it away because there’s a reason why we thought it was going to be amazing. So, how do we do a sort of SWOT analysis? For those that don’t know, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and…what does the “T” stand for?** (We’ll find out…). Anyway, so, we’ll look at: where are the opportunities in this experience? How can we reframe, re-shift, regroup, and keep the momentum going? Because a good idea is something to cherish and hold onto. It’s like clay. You gotta re-work it a little.

LZ: A good idea in one scenario won’t be the greatest idea in the next. Yeah, and you gotta mold and shape it as it goes. I like that metaphor. That’s a nice metaphor as we close. Thank you, Jess. I really appreciate your time. Yes, we will figure out the “T”!

JR: Yeah, I’m sure I’ll remember as soon as we hang up. 

LZ: Thank you very much. 

JS: Thank you!


**Note: The “T” in SWOT Analysis stands for “Threats.”


Jessica Rosen is a yoga teacher and an entrepreneur. She is the owner of One Down Dog (ODD), a community of three yoga studios in Northeast Los Angeles. Check out this post on ODD’s Blog for more about this awesome woman.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.


Women are Creators

Women are Creators

An embodied woman...has access to her appetite, her desire...a woman who can act, who can harness her creative energies, an alive and fertile mind, ready to give birth to many things.

Recently, I hung a piece of art in one of our therapy rooms that elicited strong reactions from our staff; feelings of embarrassment, discomfort, and mild disgust were expressed. One staff even admitted to turning the piece around when working in that room. What was the subject of such an evocative image? Breasts.

IMG_6045.jpg

As a group of all-female therapists, I found these responses to be both curious and illuminating. It got me thinking about the internal dialogue we women are often having with our bodies, our sexuality, and the outside world. It strikes me that part of what is so dysregulating in viewing such a straight-forward image of breasts is the potency of desire it has the capacity to evoke, the immediacy of arousal and the direct awareness of the power we women carry just in our form. It feels dangerous.

So what does all of this have to do with a woman’s creativity or the embrace of women as creators? It is my belief that the disavowal of our sexuality is, in part, a disavowal of our creative selves. Sexuality or eros is not simply about sex but about appetite; what we crave, what we desire. To me, a foundational element of creative energy; a basic requirement in troubling the rough and unknown terrain between imagination and manifestation. Audre Lorde describes this energy as, “a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.” To say it another way, eros is about vitality, life-force and the importance in learning to trust, shape, and share our self-knowledge and self-expression. Sensuality is about the embodiment of this energy; about an ability to inhabit and own oneself and utilize that energy in the process of creation. A powerful elixir.  An embodied woman who has access to her appetite, her desire, is a woman who can act, who can harness her creative energies, an alive and fertile mind, ready to give birth to many things.

 I return to image of the breasts but this time I imagine them as part of a whole, a full body of an alive and vital woman. A small act of rebellion to the discomfort and internalized patriarchy that has taught me to fear myself, to view my body and sexuality through the exclusive lens as an object of another’s desire. This woman I imagine has a subjectivity and a sexuality that is part of the whole, a sexuality that is deeply embedded in the story of woman.

So the picture remains. It hangs in testimony of the dialogue and tension we seek to hold as an all female staff. We are nurturers, comforters, and caretakers, we are also vitalized, embodied selves with the ability to dream, make, and do big things in this world.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Michelle Harwell, PsyD, LMFT is an expert trainer, respected speaker, and licensed therapist in trauma and attachment. She is noted for her specialization in areas of development, attachment, trauma, and neuroscience, and her ability to communicate complex topics with clarity and humor. 

Women are Fecund

Women are Fecund

We are meant to give birth to love.
gabrielle_fecund2.jpg

Fecund. Such a fun word. Fecund. See, what I mean? It’s so fun to say. And, then, when you look up the definition, because you do have to look it up, (how else would I have known what it means??), it’s so deeply meaningful. “Capable of producing offspring, fruit, vegetation, etc. in abundance: prolific: fruitful. Very productive or creative intellectually.” A powerful combination - a word that contains the joy of playfulness and depth of meaning - and what it’s like to work at MHT. I came on board as Clinical Director with this group of wonderful women about six months ago and my time has been just that, joyful and deeply meaningful. 

And with Christmas upon us, I keep thinking about how this joyful, deeply meaningful word - fecund - encapsulates the message of Christmas in the Judeo-Christian narrative. The story starts with an ever important announcement - the Angel Gabriel visiting the virgin Mary in Luke 1:26-38. The story is fantastical! An angel visiting a terrified, virgin woman, telling her she is to give birth to the son of God. Crazy! Right? But I say dismissing it as “crazy” is old news. How about we let ourselves play with it a little bit, give our imagination some room, and let the story be a parable of sorts, with room for metaphor. The concrete, literal message has a broader reach. A deeper meaning for our everyday lives, loaded with a crucial message for us.

When we let metaphor in, the story teaches us that, as women, (and humans), we are meant to give birth to love. Generative and creative and help meet the world’s needs. No matter our circumstances and when we think it’s impossible, we are called to be growthful, fruitful, and, in abundance, for the world’s sake. Fecund. And, if we remember the way love permeates Jesus’s message in the story as it continues - “For god so love the world, he gave his only son,” “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. And the greatest of these is love,” “love the lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two greatest commandments.” 

This is the message of Christmas to me - that we are called to give birth to love and this love will heal us, forgive us, and ultimately, save us. I wrote a poem in this fecund spirit. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you from MHT!


Love Has Come

The Angel Gabriel and Mary. 

The encounter. 


She, 

cowering in the corner, 

hiding in the darkness. 


The message. 


Love has been born, 

inside you. 

You are pregnant 

with love.


The floor is moving, 

the walls shaking, 

the house’s foundation 

put to test. 

Earthquake news. 

An identity crisis.


Love has come,

out of the darkness.

Out of the cold.

Through you. 


I know you didn't know, 

how hard it would be,

to love. To birth love. 

To steward love. 

Terror. Rage. Despair.

The hardest thing 

you’ve ever done. 

I know you're scared. 

I'm scared too. 

But just because 

you're scared, 

doesn't mean 

you can't do it. 

You can’t not. 


We can’t not. 

Where will we be 

If we don’t bear love? 

Lost.Alone.Dead.


The walking dead,

I tell you. Do you 

get what I'm saying?

Love has come, inside you.


We.are.the.mother.of.love.


Labor.Birth.Growth.

 

This is how healing takes place.

This is where our suffering

can be held. 

This is what we need 

to be human.


Love has come. 


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Dr. Gabrielle Taylor serves as Clinical Director at Michelle Harwell Therapy and is a licensed Psychologist and Psychoanalyst in private practice in Pasadena, CA. She is also a member at New Center for Psychoanalysis where she serves on the Admissions Committee. She is Core Faculty at Wright Institute Los Angeles whee she supervises and teaches – her class The Poetry of Psychoanalysis: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Theory is favored among many of the students.

Women are Victorious

Women are Victorious

I am Victorious because I chose MYSELF and listened to my inner voice. I am a Warrior because I am fighting against the status quo. And I am Brave because I seek help when I need it.

When thinking of the phrase, Women Are Victorious, I look to my amazing tribe of friends — strong individuals who have protected me, shaped me, and helped me rise above adversity, pain, and trauma. These women (and one man) have displayed courage, inspiration, and wisdom — and that to me shows Victoriousness. I wanted to celebrate them in this piece as well as share some of my own thoughts.

You know that feeling when you get goosebumps because something resonates with you so deeply? Yep, that’s what happened to me as I was compiling these vignettes from my friends. My heart felt raw with emotion as I was filled up by their inspiring words.

*****************************************************************
Shared by Lorena: 

I smile because

I have survived everything

the world has thrown at me. 

I smile because 

when I was knocked down 

I got back up.

             -Anonymous. 

"My life has changed dramatically from broken to repaired. It took a lot of work but I did it and I'm so damn proud of myself. A year ago today, I wanted to find the nearest hole and crawl into it. The despair I felt was unbearable, the embarrassment from the betrayal on so many levels was too much to take. A year later my life is so different and it feels Fabulous!"

*****************************************************************
Shared by Taz:

"My mom is a victorious woman! I know it's cliche but she truly has turned obstacles into opportunities. And that has been inspiring to me when I've felt defeated." 
*****************************************************************
Shared by "She":

“I've suffered from the age of 4 when my father died in an accident. Soon after that tragedy, despair and sexual abuse caused great horrifying pain in my life. I found faith in Jesus, which has really kept me going, I would copy Bible verses and memorize them during that time. My teachers would help me too even though they never knew what I was going through. There were sturdy figures and their consistency helped ground me. Later in life, I found therapy to be of great help. My first therapist was an angel! She saved me in many ways I cannot put into words. I've had many therapists since, and I value the personal and spiritual growth that comes with going to therapy regularly.”

*****************************************************************
Shared by Marcos:

As I think of Victorious Women in my life, I think of two important women: 1. My little sister 2. My mother. 

My sister surpassed what many people expected, including doctors, due to her medical diagnosis. Living with fibromatosis she has shown me repeatedly how strong she is and how she does not feel defeated. Now she is a mother of a healthy baby boy. She was told she would have a complicated pregnancy and the baby would have high chances of having the illness, but what a miracle to see her and the baby thriving. When I think of her I think Warrior!! Undefeated!!

My mother - her whole life has always been tough in one way or another. But it is safe to say she's overcome - her father passing at a young age, her bad luck with husbands , and the struggles of being a single mother of three in a foreign country. She has taught me many things in life, such as integrity, hard working ethics, self-respect, and family values. To me, she means the WORLD! She reminds me of a mosaic: broken into many pieces, but a beautiful masterpiece when the light shines through and you take a step back and admire the edges, light, and color. I love her. 

****************************************************************
Shared by Nina:

I feel honored to be included.

I have had my share of struggles, including abusive relationships and being brainwashed into believing I was worthless as a Woman. Anger, resentment, and hatred used to plague me. What I have learned from my life of anger was to forgive and extend Grace on those who have hurt me including myself. I found out God loved me regardless of what I had done or what had been done to me. The security of feeling I was completely forgiven of ALL my sins give me a sense of internal freedom and rejoiced in my Christianity. 

****************************************************************

Shared by Author - Maria Elena:

What led me down this long, windy path of becoming a therapist is Victoriousness. Throughout my life, I have collapsed and have felt insecure about my sense of worth, and yet have continually chosen to stay true to myself. One such crossroad emerged in my life when I thought I had found love, but it was actually abusive, dishonest, and destructive.

Guess what I chose?

That’s right — my self, my self-respect, my dignity and my ability to rise above the falsity of that love. I was brokenhearted for 5 years after the dissolution of that relationship, but that hurt ultimately took me down a path of curiosity which ultimately helped me discover my calling.

I sought out understanding about the nature of relationships. I wondered: How do relationships last? How does one become aware of relationship ed flags? How does one heal from childhood trauma? And how do I become the best version of myself as a Latina woman? 

My mother has been my rock, my safety, my reality checker, and along the way I found other amazing women to encourage, inspire, and hold me in making the decision to start a new career. I immersed myself in my studies about relationship dynamics and connected to grow my own capacity for love. I am now an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist who loves to challenge couples, individuals, and families to tune inward, to express their fears and remain curious about their rules, roles and contradictions. I am healing as my clients are healing. I am Victorious because I chose MYSELF and listened to my inner voice. I am a Warrior because I am fighting against the status quo. And I am Brave because I seek help when I need it.

Women are Victorious. As the women and man featured in this post have shown, Victoriousness is all around us. If we can face our fears with courage, reflection, or a sacred space of surrender, then often we can find a sense of freedom, pride, and creativity on the other side of adversity.

Finally, I would like to leave you with this: 

Shared by Beatriz:

Women are victorious when we unite, commune, invite, and remain curious despite fear of rejection or pain - and choosing a different path, changing the rigid holdings of the mind and allowing light to enter and creating positivity.

Shared by Rebecca:

Just like Esther, you were born for such a time as this, you came at the right time, you are not an accident, God knew you were coming and He prepared for you. Your life is for a divine purpose.  -Esther 4:14


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Maria Elena Marquez, MA, is a bilingual Spanish-English Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, IMF #103470, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. As an art therapist, Maria is passionate about helping clients unravel complex cultural beliefs and family pressures through the use of expressive arts.

Women are NOT Property

Women are NOT Property

I’ve recently found myself privy to one too many conversations where women are spoken of in ways that objectify, minimize, and commercialize their womanhood. Sometimes it’s subtle. And other times I’m left dumbfounded at the blatant and aggressive misogyny that motivates such rhetoric and/or behavior.

I know womanhood and gender politics can be complicated, but let’s make one thing simple and clear: WE ARE NOT PROPERTY.

Being a woman means having pride and acceptance for who you are (even if that changes day to day). For so long I wanted to fit into what society told me was feminine. I wanted to be slender, beautiful, giving, and like-able. These acculturated gender stereotypes dominated my conception and expression of self.

After much work and self-exploration, I’ve redefined MY understanding of femininity – it means I have physical and mental fortitude. It means my body can be athletic and strong. I can shave my legs because I love the way my calves feel sans hair and not because some commercial tells me to. It demands that I admit my vulnerabilities and/or shortcomings without letting them define me. It means showing up for myself and my fellow women by accepting others exactly where they are in their journey.


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.

What is Dressember?

What is Dressember?

Brighid Quinn wearing her “Women are Resilient” t-shirt inspired by one of our Instagram followers! Thank you @raejus!  Photo by  Even Keel Imagery  -  Miriam Brummel .

Brighid Quinn wearing her “Women are Resilient” t-shirt inspired by one of our Instagram followers! Thank you @raejus!

Photo by Even Keel Imagery - Miriam Brummel.

There’s a common misconception that human trafficking happens “somewhere else” or “overseas.” According to Annalisa Enrile, clinical associate professor in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work: “Human trafficking occurs in every country—even in first-world countries such as the United States.” In fact, in 2017, 26,557 calls were answered by the National Human Trafficking Hotline (U.S.). We’ve also learned that Los Angeles has been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as one of the thirteen high intensity hubs for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth (CSECY).

It surely can be overwhelming to come across such alarming statistics. Blythe Hill, the founder of Dressember, is no stranger to that feeling when you became passionate about making waves and yet simultaneously reminded of your limitations. In an interview with Starfish Project, Hill remarked that she first learned about human trafficking as a teenager, and “For years, I felt a sense of personal urgency to do something but I also felt powerless. I’m not a cop, a lawyer, a social worker, or a psychologist….I felt helpless. Then, as Dressember grew, I felt compelled to use it as a way to engage in the fight.”

So, what is Dressember?

Dressember is a month-long campaign where people wear dresses or ties/bow ties every day in December as a way to raise awareness and money for human trafficking programs.

It started in 2009 as a personal style challenge with no cause or fundraising element to it. As it grew, and Hill saw people she didn’t even know personally who wanted to join in, she realized it was a good idea and started dreaming about using it as a way to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking. In 2013, Hill aligned Dressember with its first grant partner, International Justice Mission (IJM), and set what felt like an ambitious goal of $25,000. They hit that goal on day 3, and then proceeded to raise over $165,000. Since then, Dressember has extended it reach and now partners with 12 organizations, including IJM, A21, CAST Los Angeles, Love146, Saving Innocence, and Olive Crest, that are leading the charge in their respective areas of expertise to end modern-day slavery.

Since 2016, the team at Michelle Harwell Therapy have advocated for Dressember while putting their own creative spin on it. Women and girls historically have been the most vulnerable to human trafficking, and we have wanted to draw attention to this fact by challenging stale, one-dimensional notions and images of femininity. This year is no different except we’ve raised the bar for our fundraising goal — setting it to $6,719, which will fund a full rescue operation to bring victims safely into freedom and begin the process of recovery and restoration.

It’s incredible how far a small donation can go - contributions in the range between $20 and $50 can secure a survivor with vital services, such as a night in a shelter, a care package, or a therapy session.

Will you consider standing with us?


-Brighid Quinn, Marketing Intern at MHT


HERE'S HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN DRESSEMBER WITH US:

Give! Visit our Dressember page and make a donation. It's that simple and no sum is too small. Truly.

Follow! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and our blog throughout the month of December. We will be documenting our fierce fashion choices but our deepest intention is to empower and educate.

Share!  Help us spread the word. You can do this by sharing our social media posts or links to our Dressember fundraising campaign page.